** out of ****
Christopher Nolan’s regular cinematographer, Wally Pfister, makes his directorial debut with Transcendence. It is about a dying technological genius played by Johnny Depp, who has his mind uploaded to a computer in an attempt to preserve his soul and continue his work. The program he becomes is an infectious superpower accumulating endless knowledge, which leads to the creation of advanced nanotech cells that can cure people of illnesses. The program quickly becomes regarded as a deity inspiring followers and an already-active anti-technology militia to act against the movement.
Pfister sticks to his guns when it comes to preserving the beauty of a movie shot on film, so it looks good. The movie, however, is an unsuccessful blend of high-concept sci-fi with mindless obligatory conflict that generates action scenes. It has great ideas, which are cheapened by conventional formulas and technophobic attitudes. The constant amount of expositional dialog is also a condescending aspect of the film. Morgan Freeman contributes to this. It’s his job after all.
Transcendence has a lot of famous talented people with Johnny Depp as the top billed star. His name is bigger than his contribution to the character he plays. I can imagine so many other actors who may have elevated this material. Depp is a good actor who doesn’t seem in the mood lately, to take on roles that offer the challenges he’s suited for.
The film held my attention with bold concepts but just kept embarrassing itself. After last year's Her offered such an original take on the subject of artificial intelligence, this movie feels kind of like a lame step backwards.